Theoretical underpinnings of organizational configurations

  • Katharina Wratschko

At the heart of any research in organizational configurations lies the assumption that we can increase our understanding of organizational behavior and performance differences across firms by identifying distinct, internally homogeneous groups of firms. “Organizational configurations can be defined as commonly occurring clusters of attributes of organizational strategies, structures and processes” (Ketchen, D. J., Thomas and Snow, 1993: 1278). The configurational approach has proved to be especially useful in strategic management to capture the various dimensions of competitive strategy, and indeed several strategic typologies (e.g. Miles and Snow, 1978; Porter, 1980; Zammuto, 1988) have been developed. Configurational studies can be broadly classified into two types: strategic groups and strategic types. Strategic groups are industry-specific and inductively derived using empirical-statistical procedures. On the other hand, strategic typologies are generated deductively and based on theory – and can thus more easily be generalized across industries (Ketchen, D. J., et al., 1993: 1279). Especially followers of the inductive approach have focused on testing for performance differences across strategic groups, however with largely equivocal results (Cool and Schendel, 1987, 1988; Ketchen, D. J., et al., 1993). In the case of strategic typologies, performance differences across groups are usually not claimed, although they typically include at least one “looser” strategy, e.g. Porter's “stuck-in-the-middle” and Miles and Snow's “Reactor” (Miles and Snow, 1978; Porter, 1980). In the following, both approaches to the study of intra-industry structure will be discussed.


Inductive Approach Strategic Group Firm Profitability Cost Leadership Adaptive Cycle 
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© Gabler | GWV Fachverlage GmbH 2009

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  • Katharina Wratschko

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